Only female football referee in Czech men's first division forced to sit out second half of season

Dagmar Damkova

Dagmar Damkova is one of the leading female football referees in the world. In 2003 she made history here in the Czech Republic, when she became the first woman to officiate in the men's first division, while at the end of last season she became possibly the first woman in the world to referee a national cup final. But now Damkova has been struck off the list of top flight refs for the second half of the season. The referees' commission say it is because she failed to complete a fitness test - even though she was ill at the time. I asked her if she thought that was the only reason.

Dagmar Damkova
"Well (laughs), who knows? I can think a lot of things, but what I actually read in the newspaper - because that's the only way I got to know it - is that's it. This is the reason. I didn't do anything wrong last season, but I didn't do anything excellent. So that's it."

Do you think it wasn't fair that they didn't give you another chance to do the fitness test, when you were ill?

"I will have the chance, as will the other referees, because I think there were about six of us who were excused from these fitness tests. So we will have another chance - but for me the top division is closed."

So what will you do now?

"I'm training to pass the fitness test, even if it's really, really tough for me. In the Czech Republic we run much more than the referees in the World Cup in Germany - can you imagine that?

"And then, well, I'm going to try to pass the fitness test. If I pass I might possibly referee in the second division - it depends on the committee."

What about women's football? I know you went to some seminar in January.

"Yes, definitely. So far I've been talking just about men's league here...So women's football - that's what I'd like to concentrate more on.

"I was in the Canary Islands in January at a FIFA seminar for the top referees who I would say have a really big chance to get to the Women's World Cup in China in September this year."

Do you think that next season you'll be back in men's first division football? Or has this setback perhaps put you off men's football here a little bit?

"If the committee is going to stay like this, with the same people, I think there's no chance for me. It's really strange here. If I can compare it to last season, at the end of May I had the final of the men's cup.

"Even the chairman of the Czech football association Mr Mokry, he wanted me to referee the game. I did it and I think I did quite a good job, everybody was satisfied. Even Mr Mokry called me afterwards to thank me for everything. Now it is nine months later and everything is different."